Make Ahead

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

July  4, 2021
4.3 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Olive oil cake at its best has a crackling crust and an aromatic oil-rich middle, which, if it held any more moisture, would be pudding. Pulling this off should be easy—there aren't even egg whites to whip and fold, or butter to cream—but it isn't always. This one, however, is perfect, and will ruin you for all others. Recipe from Maialino Restaurant in New York City, where they also serve it at breakfast in muffin form, and they've been known to turn it into a birthday cake, layered with mascarpone buttercream. The recipe is pictured here with Michelle Polzine's Slow-Roasted Strawberries from Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore (Ten Speed Press, September 2018).

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Olipac Stainless Steel Olive Oil Dispenser
- GIR Silicone Grip Whisk
- Mosser Glass Cake Stand

Genius Recipes

Test Kitchen Notes

Why is this the most beloved Genius dessert of all time? We'll tell you: It's irresistibly moist, rich and flavorful without being cloying, and exceptionally simple. Mix together some wet ingredients in one bowl, dry ingredients in another, tip the combined mixture into a cake pan, and boom. You've got a foolproof, good-no-matter-what cake. No butter softening or egg whipping or mixer wielding necessary. And because of all the moisture in the batter, there's not even the slightest chance of the cake overbaking and drying out.

On the olive oil: Since it's the primary flavor in the cake, use one that you'd be happy featuring in a salad dressing. A fruity type will complement the Grand Marnier and orange zest in the batter, while a peppery, grassy kind will create a wonderful savory contrast. It's really a matter of personal taste.

Of course, because our community loves this cake so much, they've found ways to make it their own: They've swapped out some of the all-purpose flour for almond meal and cornmeal; they've used infused olive oil for an even more pronounced punch of flavor; they've used other liqueurs in place of the Grand Marnier, to give the cake a slightly different personality; they've even added cocoa powder, espresso powder, and matcha powder (separately!) to the batter to give it a whole new groove. Mix-ins, too, aren't part of the original cake's deal, but chopped nuts, chocolate chunks or chips, or freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries would all be spectacular. Choose your own adventure—you can't go wrong any way. —Brinda Ayer
—The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Maialino's Olive Oil Cake
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes a 9-inch round cake
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups (285 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (305 grams) whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) Grand Marnier
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Oil, butter, or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. (If your cake pan is less than 2 inches deep, divide between 2 pans and start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest and juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Carol Johnson-Williams
    Carol Johnson-Williams
  • Debbie Nagy
    Debbie Nagy
  • Sylvie Chisholm
    Sylvie Chisholm
  • Jennifer Handley
    Jennifer Handley
  • Jenina G.
    Jenina G.
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

554 Reviews

Carol J. July 2, 2022
Best cake ever...easy recipe and always leaves our guests wanting more.
Nladdfuller June 21, 2022
Made recipe twice: one with oranges/orange zest and a second with lemons/lemon zest. Lemon was more flavorful. Too liquidy though. I would reduce olive oil by 1/8 of c. and maybe milk by 1/8 of c.
Ann F. June 11, 2022
My guests and I thought this cake was wonderful! The only change I made was to reduce the sugar to 1 1/2 C, which was perfect for us. I weighed all of the ingredients, which I believe is important for baking ( as an experiment, I weighed 2C of flour and it came to 296g). I set my convection oven to 325 and the cake was done in exactly 1hr. Served with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb compote - delish!
Debbie N. June 6, 2022
I made this cake for a shower exactly to the recipe. From the reviews, I was hesitant not to make changes but I wanted to try it just as stated and I'm so glad that I did. I used kosher salt as in the recipe and it was not too much. I was afraid 1.5 T of zest would be too much but it was perfect. It did take 3 oranges for me but they were small. So easy to make and I had rave reviews from my guests. I served it with dark cherry sauce and it was very good. I personally love the cake plain because I don't like things too sweet and I do not want to disguise any of the wonderful orange flavor! Will make again and again.
Sylvie C. May 27, 2022
The best cake.
Oh yes I did make so often and I am gone make one right NOW. thank
You for it.
dfhahle April 29, 2022
I took the advice of several reviewers and reduced the olive oil and sugar to 1 cup each, and increased the orange zest to 2 tablespoons. Baked perfectly at 350 for 60 minutes (non-convection). Served it with fresh strawberries. Yum!
Duck W. April 17, 2022
Way too much olive oil, sugar and salt. Holy heck the salt. I don't know how anyone in the reviews is making this exactly with the recipe as is and saying it's perfect. I ended up having to throw it in the trash. I've made quite a few other olive oil cakes with other recipes and never had an issue. Notice before attempting this one that a lot of the reviews are reducing oil and salt and sugar.
Did you use Kosher salt? There is a big difference between regular table salt and Kosher salt.
mountainMan18 February 7, 2022
I think it should be renamed a “pudding cake”, because it is so moist. It tastes very good
VSam February 5, 2022
If you're going to reduce the sugar & olive oil to 1 cup each (which I did), I'd recommend decreasing the salt by 1/2 tsp too. I baked it in a pain de mie loaf pan (came out perfectly at 350 degrees and 50 mins). I've had Maialino's muffins and they are richer tasting. I'll make this again, but will try it with 1-1/4 cup olive oil.
brandyk February 3, 2022
What can I say, this is a fine cake.
I really loved how easy this cake is to make. And I was super excited to try it because of the rave reviews. It came out perfect, no problems whatsoever. I just think I am not that into cakes that aren't fluffy. Flavor was good. I Love Grand Marnier and would have preferred a bit more flavor. I noticed Mailanos recipe states orange zest from 3 oranges and this recipe calls for 1.5 Tbs. For me that was only 2 oranges. I doubt I will ever make this again only because I buy expensive olive oil and wouldn't waste it on something I am not going to eat. I got caught up in the hype from the reviews!
Thida December 27, 2021
Threw this together last minute for the holidays and was a hit, night after night, even three days later. I cut the sugar in half and used contreau instead of grand marnier and was perfect.
Jennifer H. December 7, 2021
I found this recipe on here a few years ago, and have to say it is an absolute favorite in my house. I follow the recipe always, grand mariner, OJ, all of it, and when I do a cake version, I make mascarpone frosting with with some butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. Simply scrumptious! When I bake the muffin version I add dark chocolate amazingly delicious! After reading these great tips, I think I will try some of them! Thank you!
Jaroslaw99 November 25, 2021
Used 1 cup cultured buttermilk, 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup sugar. Also about 4 Tbsp orange zest. Baked exactly one hour in 10 inch matte gold springform lined with parchment. Came out perfect although the batter seemed thin. Everyone loved how light it was and not too sweet. Roasting strawberries seemed like too much. I took one pound of strawberries, cut in half, added 1/2,cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Simmer to desired consistency.
Jenina G. November 4, 2021
does anyone have thoughts on using Suze as the liqueur in this recipe? Thanks!
Ami November 4, 2021
Why not? I haven’t used suze, but I’ve used rum, cointreau, vermouth, sake, … or none. They all came out delicious!
Jenina G. November 5, 2021
Thanks Ami! Great to see the variety of spirits have all turned out well. I usually use an apple pie moonshine from a local distillery here which turns out very well. I was thinking that because Suze has bitter notes due to the gentian root that maybe it wouldn't jive with the rest of the ingredients but you have given me the incentive to try it out :) Cheers!
tangie1118 August 14, 2021
This was easy and delicious- will be a new go to for Italian dinners. Definitely tastes better the longer it sits (2+ days)
mara September 22, 2021
I completely agree, tastes even better after a day or two!
Lindsay F. June 4, 2021
This cake is a regular in my rotation and everyone I serve it to loves it. I've made one change that I haven't noticed others mentioning so I thought I'd share. I substitute 1 cup of cornmeal (medium or fine ground or a combo of the two) for 1 cup of the flour. It gives the cake a nice texture and makes is perfect as a dessert with fresh berries and unsweetened soft-whipped cream OR as a breakfast or tea time snack. I never refrigerate it and also only cover the cut part with plastic wrap to keep that crunchy top crunchy. I plan to try it as muffins and add some frozen wild blueberries the next time I make it.
mara June 4, 2021
Oh my word... blueberry muffins! That is brilliant!! Please keep us updated on how they turn out!
Naomi May 7, 2021
I'm excited to make this cake but don't have booze in the house other than wine! Is the Grand Marnier critical, or could I substitute with something like orange juice?
maryO May 7, 2021
I’ve never actually added the liqueur, just used OJ -> comes out great. Good luck and enjoy
Ticketytwo May 7, 2021
Not critical
mara May 7, 2021
I usually buy a little nip of Grand Marnier. Works perfectly!
Naomi May 8, 2021
Thanks for the feedback! This was a winner. My spouse begged me to never make another kind of cake again other than maybe chocolate (doesn't understand that trying new things is half the fun!). I used OJ instead of booze, 1 c EVOO (as many suggested), 1 c sugar (might go to 3/4 c next time), buttermilk for the milk. Baked for about 75 min. The top did crack but not a problem for me; the cake rose quite a bit in the oven but then "fell" as soon as I took it out, not sure why or if that matters (again, not really a problem, just curious). I will definitely be making this cake again!
Naomi May 8, 2021
That is a great idea! Next time I go to a liquor store I'm going to stock up on popular baking "minis" :-)
Ticketytwo May 8, 2021
Possibly if you’re baking at sea level. I temp left nyc to live on the beach in the Caribbean last year and I’ve noticed my cakes doing that falling thing. It doesn’t do that in ny. I’ve also made this cake. With orange olive oil, also good
Lisa M. April 5, 2021
So many helpful reviews that I want to add my own. Made for the first time yesterday. I knew I wanted a lemon version, so that's what I did. Used a digital scale to measure the big items: flour, sugar, buttermilk and oil. One cup of EVOO is 130g by the way, as I opted to listen to many reviewers who suggested this amount. I mostly used an EVOO infused with lemon and a little regular EVOO because I didn't want to deplete my entire bottle of lemony oil. I didn't have quite enough monkfruit sweetener for the sugar measurement (looking to reduce sugar intake), so I used a little organic cane sugar to make up the difference but next time I'll use all monkfruit sweetener. Probably shorted the sugar amount by 20g or so. Instead of Gran Marnier, I used Frangelico, and of course swapped OJ for fresh lemon juice and lemon instead of orange zest. Used an 8" springform pan, but did NOT put all the batter in. Probably 2 cups left out and baked the extra in a greased and floured ramekin. Reviewers stated some issue with kosher salt so I measured mine (Morton's) and then crushed it up before adding in. I did separate the eggs and emulsified the oil with the yolks before mixing all the remaining wet ingredients together.

Lastly, I did not scroll through all 500+ reviews to see if anyone had cracked the "crackling crust" code. My cake got quite brown on top and only cracked a little and it took close to 70 minutes for the cake tester to come out nearly clean. After it cooled for 30 minutes, I ran the knife around, removed the sides and then it sat...for a few hours. After dinner when I went to cut it, to my surprise, the top was hard-ish and had that crust I think some are looking for. It won't stay that way once refrigerated though. Suffice it say, I had no issues with the final product; it was cooked through, dense, moist, no over oily issues, no salt issues and tasted HEAVENLY, very lemony (even smelled it while baking). A hit!
Ann April 5, 2021
I’ve made this cake probably 10 times and never refrigerated it. It keeps quite awhile on the counter. I just use a covered cake plate. Maybe you don’t have to lose that incredible crust.
DinghyB February 26, 2021
So, I've had this recipe in my files like forever and I finally got around to making it today. O.M.G! This is a great recipe to work off of and I can't imagine that it's very easy to screw up. I took some tips from some of you previous reviewers, so thanks! I'm sure it made all the difference. As many advised I reduced the olive oil to 1 cup (think I could even go down to 3/4) and the sugar to 1 cup as well. I didn't have grand marnier so I used Cointeau instead and increased the orange zest to 2 Tablespoons. Finally, I switched out half of the flour for whole wheat. We ate it just plain and it is still one of the best cakes I've made. And it was super quick and easy! I'm sure it would be fantastic with berries and whipped cream or maybe a dollop of lemon curd. YUM!!!
Cristine January 30, 2021
Amazing recipe, I reduced the olive oil to one cup, and the sugar to 3/4 cup after reading other reviews. I used buttermilk, and also added fiori di sicilia for an extra citrus depth of flavor. One of the best cakes I have made. Drizzled with some carmel, delicious!
Mary January 31, 2021
I have been tempted to try this recipe again and you have convinced me. I'm going to cut the olive oil to 1 cup but will only cut the sugar by 1/4 cup as the lack of sugar will tend to dry the cake, I believe. Will post my results. Also because of teenagers in the house who love sweet I'm going to try with some raspberries and a bit of raspberry syrup.